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Showing posts with label weight loss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weight loss. Show all posts

Dieting And Weight Loss; It's Time To Face The Facts

Real talk though; we need to face the facts about dieting for weight loss.

On any specific approach over the long term, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. On all approaches combined, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. However... while successful outcomes are the minority, they are not exclusive to any specific approach.

What can we observe or logically conclude about what enables a person to be successful with any approach to dieting?

I suggest the following:
  • They enjoy & have an appetite for enough of the included choices of food that they are satiated, or at least that hunger levels are manageable.
  • Total energy intake is far enough below "an excessive" level that would preclude fat loss, but high enough to avoid or mitigate adaptive thermogenesis aka "starvation mode" in the common vernacular.
     
  • Ideally they're including a suitable amount of reasonably healthful and nutritious choices, but some famous "stunt diets" you may have read about prove it could be done on just potatoes, twinkies, macdonalds, ice cream & whey... whatever. None of which I would personally recommend but it demonstrates an important point.
  • The eating habits they adopt fit in with their lifestyle & circumstances, and they're able to stay enthusiastic and not gravitate back towards their old habits.
  • So their are any number of overly simple answers but the reality is that for most people, success is going to be something that you have to decide upon and keep working on, on an ongoing daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, year in, year out basis. Therefore you want "the path of least resistance" in my opinion.

Now... people often attempt to 'splain to me that their personally prefered diet (usually LCHF) is "more satiating" and therefore preferable over brute force starvation approaches which work in theory but backfire long term due to the effects on metabolism.

You can refer to the above for what is wrong with this logic. It would be satiating IF you happen to enjoy enough of the foods that fit this eating style and happen to consume enough of them to meet that "adequate but not excessive" energy provision that results in weight loss without metabolic adaptation.

However if you DON'T happen to enjoy enough of those foods, then it actually does become a brute force deprivation based approach. I still don't really understand how people can be quite so low in emotional IQ that they can't grasp this concept.

ANYWAY let's wrap this up.

With the right guidance you could achieve that "adequate but not excessive, satisfied but not stuffed, weight loss without metabolic downgrade" eating pattern on ANY selection of foods without feeling afraid or guilty about ANY particular choices or needing to rule anything out (other than on specific medical grounds obviously).

That's what I teach people to do.
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Interrupted / Intermittent Energy Restriction Sports Nutrition Strategy

Brand new for 2018, a new variation on the Flexible Fueling system inspired by the recent MATADOR (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) Study showing that greater weight loss results were achieved with a "two weeks on, two weeks off" approach to dieting compared to continuous energy restriction.

I want to try to skim over a couple of things that have been covered previously and get on to what's new. My Flexible Fueling approach (in fact, even before I started calling it Flexible Fueling) has always been about getting people OUT of that restrictive, further and further into deficit approach to IIFYM and getting them confidently enjoying a variety the delicious & nutritious foods that suit & appeal to them, to a total energy provision that is adequate, but not excessive.

Flexible Fueling Towards Intuitive Eating

I covered this in more detail recently, but suffice it to say that for many people it's enough just to get out of dieting, practice regular eating habits to ensure that they meet at least a conservative estimate of their minimum requirements, leaving a reasonable margin for error or variance so that they don't have to feel anxious about a social engagement where they may indulge a little... and to understand that as this is a conservative estimate of minimal requirements, before long they're likely to experience some hunger signals, which they should respond to accordingly with an increase to a more appropriate level of daily energy intake.

Flexible Fueling Towards Metabolic Capacity

My experience as a professional coach is that in the vast majority of cases, people's problems stem from attempting to restrict to an insufficient level of energy intake relative to their requirements. In the case of more experienced, more proficient, serious fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes this is a serious problem. Particularly with a younger, taller, more active client with a more advanced level of prowess at training it is imperative to increase steadily towards a target representing the highest level of energy intake that can be put to good use and produce a benefit in terms of athletic performance and condition.

This does not mean a "bulk and cut" strategy.

Serious fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes as described above have a high energy requirement and potentially massive capacity for energy flux AKA the amount of energy that could be expended or otherwise utilised. As you increase towards this amount, a leaner and more athletic condition will be the result.

If you've been following me for a while you'll know all of this already, and you'll know it's what I've been talking about for years and everyone else is slowly starting to catch up to, including a bunch of suck ass motherfuckers who've argued with me in the past. PROLONGED & EXCESSIVE LEVELS OF RESTRICTION CAN ONLY BACKFIRE AND CANNOT RESULT IN MAINTENANCE OF A LEAN ATHLETIC CONDITION. Rather, that sort of nonsense is only conducive to a regression in physical condition and the development of an eating disorder.

So much for the "skim". Let's cut to it.

The Flexible Fueling Punctuated Periodisation Protocol

What we're doing here is inspired by the MATADOR study, but it's a little different and also I don't like to have anything to do with the notion of "restriction", so I had to come up with a cool name of my own for this variation on the strategy.

Refer to the graphic below, and I'll explain how it works.



For the first two weeks, we start at the most conservative estimate of absolute minimum requirement. Often this is still more than the amounts people are attempting to work with when they come to me. I drew this as a curve, as we're likely to find that it does in fact turn out to be overly conservative and that we need to come a little higher, towards a more reasonable, more workable reflection of our minimum requirement.

For the next two weeks, we work to a conservative estimate of Metabolic Capacity.

In theory vs in practice.

In theory, so long as you're in caloric deficit your body will draw upon fat stores to make up the difference, right? And the further into deficit, the more fat loss, right? And if you're not seeing fat loss, you're not in deficit, right?

Bull. Shit.

Real quick... what a lot of these fucking imbeciles out there don't quite have the brain capacity to grasp is that there is a difference between for example a 90kg male aspiring body builder who has just done a "bulk" on say 3500 cals per day, and a female athlete on 1400 calories per day or an overweight mature age female with a decades long history of extreme crash dieting. The male could cut to 2500 calories and see fat loss due to being "in deficit" and may find at some point that he needs to cut further to keep leaning out. That's not how I'd do it because I'm smarter than that, but that's why they think "if you're in deficit you lose fat, when you're not losing fat cut further into deficit". The female athlete can't possibly cut any lower and should never have been instructed to cut that low to begin with, YOU GET ME?

So, in pursuit of your goals you need more than just "restrict, restrict further and keep on restricting indefinitely until you hate your fucken life". You need a system where you work to intelligently calculated targets, and assess your response to those targets until you find what feels right and works right for you, allowing you to enjoy life and enjoy your best and most sustainable results from training.

Assessing the response and revising the strategy.

In theory you should see fat loss and therefore weight loss in that two week period at minimal intake. Interestingly though, some people will not see weight loss at that phase, but will see fat loss during the next two weeks while working to higher intakes. In which case, the question is whether the period of restriction is unproductive or whether it is necessary as the fat loss is a response to coming out of deficit. There's only one way to find out. If the period of restriction proves unproductive then it makes sense to find the lowest productive level of intake and consider that the new minimum.

If there is no fat loss at either level, you may decide to repeat the period and give it a little longer to see if it kicks in. Or you may logically conclude that since you can't go any lower, and since a conservative estimate of the most you could benefit from didn't do the job, you can only conclude that intake is still not high enough and a further increase to a less conservative estimate is required, as indicated on the chart at Week 7 & 8. In fact... if fat loss is apparent I'd still be likely to conclude that our conservative estimate is indeed quite conservative and I'd be optimistic that an increase to a less conservative level will prove productive.

At the very worst if we do overshoot that maximum level of intake and see an increase in weight beyond what would be explained simply by having more food passing through the digestive system, we have two weeks back at minimal intakes just around the corner that will resolve that, and we know to set our higher target more conservatively next time.

More likely though especially in the younger, the taller, and especially the more active people with a higher level of athletic prowess, everything works out better than expected and by the third cycle of the strategy we're confident and enthusiastic to get more adventurous with our higher targets.

Beyond Twelve Weeks

Having worked to different levels we'll have learned what's the least we can expect to last a few days or a week on, what's the most we can currently put to use while producing a leaner condition, and what's the optimal level of fueling relative to our requirements. We can then make an educated decision how best to proceed, either eating intuitively in accordance with our new habits and the healthy appetite we've developed, or by working to an optimal target for an extended period, or by continuing with the Punctuated Periodisation Protocol.
It's about enjoying life, enjoying the intellectual stimulation of working to a strategy, enjoying the physical stimulation of training, and enjoying the best and most sustainable results in athletic performance and condition.

Of course... such a complex and convoluted approach is not for everyone, which is why Flexible Fueling works on a spectrum between the "towards intuitive" to the "towards capacity" approaches, with this being somewhere in between. And it goes without saying that there's only ONE person capable of coaching this approach. Other people calling themselves "IIFYM" or "Flexible Dieting" guys and girls can't even begin to grasp this stuff. They literally just think "keep eating less, you must be lying to me and eating more than you say you are" is what passes for coaching.

Update:

Here's the revised version of the graphic representation of the strategy.

Now, exactly how this plays out is likely to vary from each individual to the next, but road testing this myself and with some clients what I've found is that at a certain point (week 9 on this version of the graphic) you realise that while you could reduce back down to those conservative, minimal intake targets, it's not actually doing you any favours to do so. So rather than cut back to minimal, you merely reduce from "less conservative" back to "conservative".

Also I've added a column for Week 13 & 14, where having established where our true maximal level aka metabolic capacity is, we have a good feel for an optimal level which is just shy of maximum, where we maintain absolute best performance and condition indefinitely.
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The Latest On Weight Loss, According To Science And My Observations

As fate would have it, quite a few interesting articles regarding research related to weight loss have come out in the past few weeks since I posted my "why we  should probably all stop offering weight loss coaching" article of a few weeks ago.

Now, unfortunately the fact remains that long term success with weight loss goals is a statistically unlikely outcome. Therefore I suggest that anyone making any promises about weight loss with the inference of "guaranteed" results is at best overly optimistic or at worst a damn dirty liar. Certainly though there are people out there who've lost weight and kept it off... so if you have a weight loss goal, and let's quantify that and say you have a permanent weight loss goal, what you probably want to be concerned with is figuring out where your best chances of success lie, and with avoiding the mistakes that all the unsuccessful people are making.

First let's talk about exercise. You should be doing some resistance training.

This is probably not news to anyone who has followed my various social mediums for more than a few minutes by now.

Resistance training is one of the best things you can do for your health, whether you have a weight related goal or not. Reiterating about 5000 of my previous entries though, and this is important so make sure you're paying attention this time, the purpose of resistance training is a lot less to do with "burning calories" and a lot more to do with inspiring your body to take up and put more energy and resources to use in supporting lean mass, ideally at the expense of fat mass.

So it's not just that you expend energy while training (although you do, and that's good) but that your body has something productive to do with the balance of energy that remains.

And by the way for what it's worth, it absolutely IS possible to gain lean mass at the expense of fat mass, especially for beginners but also even in more experienced athletes and enthusiasts.

Q: What's a good resistance training program for a client who wants to lose weight?

Exercise selection and variations in programming obviously will vary between individuals, but generally speaking the best resistance training program for a client who wants to lose weight is the same program that you would give her if she didn't want to lose weight... subject to her levels of confidence and proficiency at exercise.

Where most people with a "weight loss" focus will screw this up is by messing with the program, adding stuff in, leaving rest periods out, performing the whole routine as a super set or a circuit, and so on, with the idea that they "need to burn more calories to lose weight". So there's an obvious mistake you should decide right now that you will resist the urge to commit in future.

A couple of related links on this point:

Just a little more on the many benefits of strength / resistance training:

I may have digressed a little so peruse those additional links at your leisure. The first one may be especially pertinent to many of the people reading this entry.

Back to the main point as per the included image above, diet is key but resistance training will facilitate the best and most consistent results.

Paradox: Diet is the key, but "diets" don't work.

Diet is a contentious topic.

On the one side of the fence you have the people who insist upon some variation of the "all they have to do is stop eating crap food, cut out carbs, cut out grains, and eat clean" theme, and on the other side of the fence you have the people who insist "all that matters is that they are in caloric deficit". However, according to the International Journal Of Obesity, “it is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term”. So with one or two very rare, very notable exceptions, both camps are full of idiots.

Now I covered an abundance of evidence in this weight loss bullshit busting master post (not to mention all the other master posts), a while back... so rather than being redundant and repeat myself again and again, let's skip to the new stuff. Suffice it to say though, it's NOT about "clean eating" and it IS about "calories in, calories out", but it is NOT about "less and less and less calories in, more and more and more calories out".

At a certain point with such approaches... whether by deliberate caloric restriction or by omission of energy dense food choices to the effect of caloric restriction... all you are doing is training the body to manage the workload, rather than to actually benefit from training. It may be more accurate to say that you are training the body to require that level of workload (expenditure) at that level of restriction (intake) just to maintain a heavier and fatter condition, and if those levels are unsustainable then weight gain / regain will occur. As would appear to fit with the observation quoted earlier.

Again though, this has been a contentious topic. The majority of the "calories in calories out" crowd until very recently have insisted that there is no way for the body to adapt to prolonged and excessive levels of caloric restriction so as to preclude weight loss. Rather they would insist "if people are in deficit they see fat loss, if they're not seeing fat loss they're lying to you about how much they eat". 

Now since the Biggest Loser Study a year or so back, people in that camp have begrudgingly admitted that the body WILL adapt to prolonged calorie deficit and this WILL preclude further fat loss, but have continued to insist that the answer to this is simply to restrict even further into deficit and/or increase expenditure further with additional exercise & activity. I did mention that I think most of them are complete fucking idiots, didn't I?

Anyway. Increasingly, more and more evidence suggests that while fat loss IS dependant upon being in caloric deficit, we must work to appropriate levels of deficit where an expectation of adherence is not unreasonable, and where we are still providing sufficient energy and resources to benefit from training, and we must not restrict indefinitely but rather adopt a strategy of working at periods closer to metabolic capacity and at periods working from a greater level of deficit.

So, really that's almost exactly what I have been talking about for years... isn't it? 

Here are some links to relevant evidence:
Now... the approaches in each of those studies are different, but collectively in my opinion they more than sufficiently refute the "further into deficit (aka less calories in) always results in greater fat loss" doctrine as pushed by far too many halfwitted CI/CO & IIFYM proponents. 

Practical application of this information:

As coaches, as overweight or obese people, and even as fitness enthusiasts of non excessive weights, we need to be aware of and appreciate the paradoxical nature of things. To wit; an energy deficit is required to facilitate fat loss, but prolonged and excessive levels of energy deficit are associated with a higher body fat percentage in athletes and with greater long term weight gain in the overweight and obese. It is similarly ironic that when changes in body weight are seen as the most (or only) important outcome of an exercise program, we tend to adopt less effective approaches due to being overly concerned with "burning calories" and we are less inclined to pursue and appreciate the many benefits of productive activity.

Regardless of whether we are overweight and obese people or whether we are relatively lean and more active people, we need to move away from a "dieting" mentality where we glorify or consider necessary the arbitrary restriction of food choices, or over restriction of energy intake. We need to cease associating the suppression or ignoring of our bodies' hunger signals with discipline, will power or other strength of character and these virtues with the attainment and maintenance of a lean and healthy physical condition.

Rather, we should take an interest in learning and practicing a productive and beneficial approach to exercise and activity. We should practice regular, consistent, structured and varied eating habits to an appropriate but not excessive total energy intake. As per the links above, there may be some evidence to support the practice of eating more earlier in the day and less later on... but I would suggest whatever meal and snack schedule each individual finds convenient, appealing and sustainable to achieve "appropriate but not excessive total energy intake" by default without being too concerned about occasional divergences.

This could simply be described as practicing self care and healthy habits, and this alone should prove conducive to better physical and emotional health as well as a leaner condition, whether actual weight changes occur or otherwise.

For those who are enthusiastic to work more strategically to maximise their potential to see the most significant and sustainable results, the process should involve periods of working closer to a "maintenance" level of intake representing metabolic capacity, and periods of working to a merely "adequate" level of intake which is at a significant deficit, but still suitable to a reasonable expectation of adherence, and to reap the benefits of training without resulting in comprised metabolic rate.

Please come and discuss this entry on my facebook page.
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The belief about food that you need to change in order to see success.

So, here's an idea for a post that I've had for a little while... and I want to start by letting you know that it is partially an observation and commentary on the fitness industry, but it will have a conclusion that will not only be applicable to the general public, but actually could be of potentially life changing significance to serious fitness enthusiasts who struggle with the nutrition side of things.

This was inspired by something that came across my social media feeds last week which I don't seem to be able to find again right now, so perhaps I'll misquote this, but it got me thinking anyway. It was something to the effect of "how to change your client's belief systems about foods" so that they'll have good adherence, or... be successful... or something.

Now, this got me thinking because generally speaking, when you look into these things you tend to find that the "change in belief systems" actually infers adopting a lot of beliefs that don't quite stand up to scrutiny and aren't actually factual. These sorts of things are intriguing to me. It's easy enough to just write everyone off as a scam artist or a Pete Evans style delusional simpleton repeating a bunch of nonsense and trying to brainwash other people into believing it... but in some cases that would be a little unfair, as you have actually quite decent people with the best intentions of contributing positively to the industry by teaching valuable skills to aspiring professional coaches.

With all that said, the question remains: why is it that good and intelligent people would believe so passionately in things that just aren't factual?

Well, that was a long introduction so let's cut from the chase from this point on. Refer to my rather excellent flow chart below, and let's start at the top and then work down just the green boxes on the left hand side.



Pretty simple, right?

You read... oh, let's say you read "Good Calories Bad Calories" or you watch one of those food documentaries on Netflix, and it tells you "this is the problem, and this is the solution". Fortunately for you, your reaction happens to be "hmm... well, that seems to make some kind of sense, and doesn't sound too difficult to me, so I'll give it a go". And what do you know, it actually works and you actually see good results.

Fantastic. So, seeing results you have every reason to believe "obviously this works" and it's not unreasonable to extend that to "obviously this works, and it works for the reasons I have been taught. This is what everyone needs to do".
That'd be an understandable conclusion, but really... all we really know at this point is that it happened to suit you, and it happened to work. We don't necessarily know that it worked because what convinced you to try it in the first place was 100% factual.

Now let's back up though and we'll follow the chart but end up in some of those red boxes.

You hear about something or are instructed to do something by your coach, and you can see these other people very enthusiastic and having a good time with it. Maybe you think "ok that sounds easy enough", or maybe you think "this sounds awful, but fuck, what choice do I have if that's what it takes?". Either way, in this example, you give it your best shot, but for some reason you just can't seem to make it work.

Or... actually you know what? Maybe you don't even give it a shot because it sounds that awful and you're just that lacking in optimism about your chances of pulling it off. Contrary to the way a lot of the fitness industry seems to think, this can be entirely understandable. You're told a diet that is high in animal fats is required, and you want to be a vegan. Or you're told a grain free diet is required, but you love bread and cereal. Or you might even be told a vegan diet is required, but you love steak. Maybe you're just one of these people who only really likes a rather limited variety of foods and isn't very good at trying new ones. I'm in the minority but for whatever it's worth, I for one would not blame you for giving up without even trying under any of those or similar circumstances.

But in any case, in these red squares... either you're not enthusiastic and not able to adhere to it, you attempt to force yourself but it still doesn't work, or you were actually quite enthusiastic and you're pretty sure you're doing everything you've been told, but it's still not working. If you or your coach really believes "it you do this it works, if it's not working you're not doing it right, and it has to be done like this and no other way", then you're screwed. Especially if you're one of those unfortunate people who spent a lot of time mouthing off online about how stupid everyone else must be, and then found your condition going backwards no matter how much harder you tried to stay in ketosis, just saying.

Here's the wild card though. That other box all the way on it's own on the right.

Let's start again from the top. You get told about something and how great it is, it may or may not really make sense, it may or may not be based in reality, but either way you already have some other approach that you like, which is working out very nicely for you.

Now, for some reason... that's a situation that not many people in the online fitness world seem to be able to imagine. Think about it... how could two different people be doing two different things, and both of them successfully? How could someone think that is good, when I think this is good? Are they trying to insult me, or what?

Honestly, it gets so silly. But here's the thing.

As per what's in the green section of the chart, here's what we can assume about every person out there who is having a good time and maintaining improvements in condition.
  1. They have a decent approach to training that they get stuck into enthusiastically.
  2. They have an approach to nutrition that they believe is the best, that happens to suit them, and actually does consistently give them enough of all the energy and nutritional resources that they need to facilitate results, at least to the level at which they've achieved so far.
Also let's specify that we're talking about people who've maintained a degree of success for... oh, let's say five or more years. We're not talking about people who did some "miraculous transformation" for about half a season but then regained 30kg or something like that, and we're not talking about the people who will eventually come clean and confess that they were miserable the whole time either.

We can probably safely say that no one who has been successful long term was doing something that didn't appeal to them, that didn't suit them, that they hated, or that they forced themselves to believe in even though it didn't really seem to make sense. We can definitely say that they don't have the same approach, or even necessarily a similar approach to one another. And while many people will want to believe that there is a specific, scientific reason why their personally preferred approach is "the best" approach for anyone... if you like the approach, if the approach is working out for you satisfactorily, it should be enough just to be confident and to be enthusiastic about having found the approach that is best for you.

In short, the belief that you need to change is that there is ANYONE out there being successful by doing ANYTHING other than what happens to most appeal to them and what happens to best suit them. And if they try to tell you anything else, they're full of shit.

So, the take home point from all of this, for you.

For everyone out there saying, "but you can't do it unless you cut out grains and never eat cereal for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch again", there are people out there who are doing it while eating cereal for breakfast or whatever else. For everyone out there saying "but you can't do it on a vegan diet" there are some incredibly successful vegan athletes out there as well. The same goes for anything to do with the number of meals per day, the timing and frequency of meals across the day, the same again for any other, more elitist ideals about what people "need to" do, or what they should and should not want to do as far as their approach to nutrition goes as well.

Now obviously there are some technically concerns that come into this. Your dietary habits cannot be conducive to excessive energy intake if you expect to develop a leaner condition. At the same time, your dietary habits must provide an adequate total level of energy intake, and an adequate level of protein intake, to facilitate improvements in performance, recovery after training, and to maintain and increase lean mass. Also you need to get enough fibre, vitamins and minerals from some of the healthy stuff.

Aside from that? You require an approach that you're enthusiastic about, and are able to adhere to with a reasonable level of consistency. What better reason to be enthusiastic than because you truly believe it is best approach for you? What better reason to believe that, than because you have actually designed and continued to refine the approach to be what is best for you?
This is how I like to do it, the way that suits me best, and I'm more than happy with the results. How anyone else prefers to go about it is irrelevant. I have my own story. They aint me and this isn't their life.
Now, as coaches I believe it is fine to only offer one approach that you specialise in. I only offer one approach, and if someone tells me they're looking for something different, they're free to and in fact best to go looking for another coach who specialises in that, because I won't accept them as a client. But as coaches whatever we are telling people in support of our preferred approach should be truthful, and where applicable should be able to be supported by credible scientific evidence as well as every day observations. It shouldn't be bullshit that robs the people who aren't suited to that approach of the belief that they too can be successful.

Why not come and discuss this post with us on my facebook page?
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Why I stopped coaching weight loss for a few years there.

This was originally posted under another title on the old blog. A title that is no longer accurate since I'm now offering weight loss strategies again. Read on and it will all make sense, hopefully.

This is more complicated than you probably think.

People tend to want everything broken down into just one slogan or soundbite that either suits their biases or that they find easy to argue against. The reality is, there are a lot of angles to cover here. I'll do my best to cover them all within a reasonable word count, but I make no promises on that last part.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get started.

For reasons that will hopefully become apparent, I'm actually going to start with the conclusion, and the conclusion is actually a paragraph borrowed from something I posted on instagram the other day, as follows:
More than ever, the longer I do this and the more people I work with as a professional coach, the more I truly believe that our focus needs to be on simply enjoying the physical challenge of productive training, and enjoying the intellectual challenge of working to a productive fueling strategy, as well as assessing your physiological and psychological responses to each as you learn to do more of what keeps you strong, healthy & happy, and to reject whatever doesn't.
That sounds great, but what's the problem with wanting to lose weight?

Well I'm glad you asked. First of all though, that headline at the top of the page doesn't translate to "I don't want to coach fat people" or anything silly like that. Also, I always object to anything that gives anyone a message to the tune of "you might as well not bother trying, just accept that where you are is where you're supposed to be", so that's definitely not my point either.

Obviously I've helped people to lose weight successfully in the past. Clients, other people who follow my pages and put the pieces together for themselves. Some with medical conditions such as autoimmune diseases. Some who got on top of a restrict, binge & purge type eating disorder and lost weight. Some who rather generously credit me with facilitating a "life saving" level of weight loss.

A handful of fast facts about diets and weight loss:
  1. All diets work for the same reason; they create a caloric deficit.
    Whether people are aware of the amount of calories or whether due to restriction of food choices, any changes in dietary habits that result in weight loss infer a caloric deficit.
  2. Different named diets, low carb approaches, balanced approaches... when the energy and protein provision is matched, the clinical evidence suggests there is little if any difference in the results of different approaches. So there is not just "one correct" or "one best" set of eating habits we should all adopt.
  3. Regardless, the statistics are that over the long term there is no approach that has a high success rate. People tend to regain the weight.
  4. In fact, according to the International Journal Of Obesity; "it is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term."
So, what is the problem then?

Well that depends.

In theory, you make changes in dietary habits resulting in a caloric deficit. You lose weight, and so long as you do not revert back to habits resulting in a caloric surplus you should not regain the weight. Therefore the simple explanation is that the problem is down to continuance of adherence. Or so it would seem.

As an example, here's how it is supposed to work, and for that matter actually does work.

Imagine I have a new personal training client who is a younger woman and let's say 5, 10 or 15kg overweight due to not being in the habit of being active, and perhaps in the habit of over indulging a little too often. As a competent and responsible trainer, I get her started with a decent, strength based training program, and the appropriate energy targets at a suitable level of deficit and with a reasonable margin for error. If she follows my instructions with some level of consistency she'll certainly lose weight as she develops a more athletic condition.

Assuming she then maintains her interest in training and does not revert to an excessive energy intake, she should not regain any weight. That's how it works in theory anyway. I want to move on but first let's just acknowledge that what I've described is not really a "weight loss approach" the way most people would go about it.

So, whether it is working to a caloric deficit, whether it is sticking to this particular diet and this particular set of foods... if the people continue to do it, it would continue to work, right? You'd like to think so. So why don't people just keep doing it?

Reasons for non-continuance of adherence:

There could be any number of reasons and I'm not forgetting that mere complacency or even delusion are two of them, but it would be a flagrant cop-out to pretend that those are the only reasons and therefore absolve trainers & health coaches from their obligation to provide approaches that are feasible and efficacious over the long haul.

In simpler terms, I'm asking you just humour me and consider entertaining the mere possibility that people sometimes lose motivation because the approach has stopped producing results, or simply because the approach is impractical and any expectation of continued, long term adherence was entirely unreasonable.

Weight loss dieting tends to be of an extreme variety, either with strict low calories, strict food exclusions, or both. Strict adherence would prohibit ever going out to eat socially, visiting your parents for a home cooked meal, having a takeaway night or ordering home delivery. These approaches tend to be temporary by design, and as discussed, the long term consequence is greater weight gain.

With that in mind and getting back to my hypothetical client we described earlier, if we focus on developing an interest in a productive approach to training, we can expect weight loss. However if we focus on weight loss and my instruction is a low carb, low cal, clean eating style of extreme and restrictive diet, as well as high intensity activity "to burn calories"... any expectation of continued long term adherence is overly optimistic at best, any weight loss is temporary at best, and the long term consequence would be weight gain, a worsened relationship with food, and likely a decrease in enthusiasm for exercise as well.

In the case of a second new client of a higher and more excessive weight, it is very likely that their current weight is actually the consequence of previous attempts at weight loss perhaps over a period of years or even decades, and this is the outcome we wanted to avoid with the first hypothetical client. For this reason, it would make no sense at all to give them more of the same now. It would make no sense to take an attitude of "we need to lose weight first" via the same restrictive and unproductive approaches.

There are benefits to any amount of activity over being inactive, and benefits to getting out of restrictive dieting and developing more consistent, structured and appropriate eating habits and a healthier relationship with food. When the type of activity resembles some form of what we might describe as "productive training", in a more overweight or obese client we can expect significant decreases in measurements as the body begins to better ultilise energy and resources in support of lean mass at the expense of fat mass, as well as numerous other health benefits.

Here's the curious thing. While seeing significant results in fat loss you'd expect to see confirmation of this when weighing in on the scales, but the reality seems to be that this is not always the case right away. What a pity it would be to fail to value or appreciate the good results in fat loss, strength and performance at training, improved health markers and the rejection of restrictive dieting, just because the scales do not confirm these results with the corresponding loss of body weight.

There's more though. 

To wrap up and reiterate, by developing an interest in productive training and with suitable sports nutrition guidance there will be certain client profiles where weight loss is very likely, certain client profiles where weight loss could be expected but cannot be guaranteed, and let's not forget there will be some for whom weight loss should not be seen as an acceptable outcome at all.

My observation is that when people are focused on and overly concerned with weight loss per se, even when given a good and productive approach to training and the appropriate instruction, the tendency will be to sacrifice the efficacy of the training strategy by falling back into weight loss type behaviours and mindsets as previously described. For example, making changes or additions to the training program "to burn more calories", and to skip meals or otherwise fall short of the prescribed levels of fueling that are required to facilitate any sort of results.

Ironically, it will be the very things that people feel compelled to do because they "are trying to lose weight" which ultimately prevent them from reaping the many benefits of a sensible and productive approach to training.

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with having body composition and condition related goals, we must pursue them with sensible, effective and productive approaches and attitudes, and resist the social conditioning that sees us more inclined towards the extreme, destructive and ultimately futile methods typically associated with trying to lose weight.

Come and let me know what you thought of this post, on my facebook page.
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Read This Before You "Eat More To Lose Weight"

This might seem like something of an ironic post coming from me of all people. 

After all, I'm the guy who's been saying "we need to fuel people for best performance and condition, not try to starve weight off them" for the past few years, when no one else seemed to be.

The message finally appears to be catching on, and more people are beginning to realise that slashing calories ever lower is as damaging as it is unsustainable. But before we arbitrarily replace the blanket statement of "eat less (and less) move more (and more)" with it's polar opposite, let's assess the situation to ensure that this time, we're actually giving advice that is good and helpful.

First though, let's bust some myths. 

Myth: You need to eat clean. It is the quality of foods that matters, not the calories. You don't lose weight eating "junk food", and any of the "wrong" foods will make you gain weight.

Nope. 

Of course we should all try to make sensible choices and include many healthy options, but your total energy intake is what influences your body weight.


Myth: Low Carb & Keto Diets are the best / only option for weight loss.

Nope.

This is probably redundant after the previous section anyway, but there's no benefit to low carb or keto dieting over balanced diets of the same energy provision. Some people sure do seem to like them, but personally I would see VLC & keto diets as disadvantageous for most people with an interest in long term adherence for sustainable results.

Again though, the facts are that if you go from an excessive regular energy intake and lack of physical activity to less excessive energy intake and more suitably active, you'll lose weight. Whether you cut back on carbs, on fats, or cut back across the board... from more excessive to less excessive energy intake, and especially from inactive to suitably active, you will lose weight.

Update: Upon demonstrating that Low Carb approaches are not required or preferable for weight loss, it is almost inevitable that a special pleading, goal post shifting argument will be made of the "but if they have Type 2 Diabetes..." variety. Let's knock that one on the head while we're about it, too.



Myth: When Weight Loss Stalls, Add More High Intensity Calorie Burning Cardio Workouts.
Nope.

As stated above, from inactive to suitably active is a very good idea indeed, but let's assume we're talking about people who are already quite active and participating in training. Adding more and more non-productive high intensity activity to burn calories is not only impractical, but the links above show that it will offer no benefit.

Take home point here: train productively, for enjoyment and for the specific benefits of the choice of activity. Not "to burn calories".


  Myth: The 5:2 Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Meal Frequency & whatever else.

Eh...


Again; "energy provision vs energy requirement" is the rule that matters. Forcing yourself onto a different meal schedule may mean that you eat less, but it is still the change in amount of energy intake that influences body condition, and not the change in timing of energy intake.



So far, all of this supports "eat more to lose weight". Should you really though?


Active people require a certain amount of energy and resources in order to be able to recover and adapt to training. If you're restricting to a low level of energy intake with the misguided "calorie deficit" approach, a lack of progress is likely to be due to falling well short of that amount. Introducing more "calorie burning" activity only squanders what resources you have made available in an unproductive manner.


Bottom line here: being under fueled and over worked is not conducive to good results, even when weight loss is a significant aspect of your goal.

Is that what is actually happening though?


As the saying goes; the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool

For inactive people who are not involved in sports or training, even a "normal" amount of food will be in excess of an amount that you are putting to use, which means weight gain. In this circumstance, "eat more to lose weight" would almost certainly result in rapid gain of an even greater amount.

Here's where it gets complicated and the issue becomes contentious.

Actually not a myth: Humans are extremely likely to under estimate food / energy intake and over estimate activity levels.





It is important to include these studies for two reasons, the first of which is that people who are fixated on the calorie deficit model are likely to show you them with the inference that they prove that "the problem is that they're eating a lot more than they think they are. If they were eating the amount that they think they are, they'd be in deficit and therefore they'd be losing weight".

Yes, but no.

It's important to notice that these studies are not of athletes or on people of less excessive weight who are participating in sports or training. In my years of experience as a coach, when active people come to me and report that they are working to restrictive and low targets without seeing progress, I tend to believe them and we consistently see much better results as we increase first towards an adequate and then closer towards a more optimal total energy and macronutritient provision... including when weight loss is a goal.

Regardless, we do know that a disparity between perceived and actual intake is very common, so unless we are actually working to a plan to hit our current targets, we can't assume that we are. Intuitive eating is awesome IF you're still making progress, but if your eating habits are erratic, unscheduled, unmeasured and inconsistent... we have no reason to consider the total energy provision to be anything other than an unknown and random amount.

On a related note...

To my way of thinking just adding "more" to a random amount isn't much better than slashing below an unknown amount. Where you end up is anyone's guess.

Let's cut to the chase.

If you're overweight and inactive, first and foremost you need to become suitably active.
People who are already active, assess your consistency at training. If you're working to targets based on requirements for 5 sessions per week but you've only been making 2 lately, eating more is not likely to have the desired effect.

Now, if you're training consistently and especially if you're progressing from a beginners level to an intermediate level, from lower intermediate to upper intermediate and so on... your fueling requirements will increase as the demands on your body to perform, recover from, and adapt to training are greater.

If you have a set of intelligently determined targets for intake, but you've just been winging it as described above, you will need to start actually planning your daily intake in advance to ensure adherence to those targets, and then assess the results.

Good performance at training, good energy levels outside of training and improvements in condition might suggest that your targets are appropriate all along but you just weren't hitting them. If you had "beginner level" targets but you're not really a beginner anymore and you see no improvement in condition, that might be a good sign that you need to recalculate with your new level of consistency and proficiency in mind.  If you last 3 or 4 days and then find you are ravenous and eat everything in sight... are you thinking "start over again and this time be more disciplined" right now? Screw that. It's a sure sign that you need to recalculate and increase daily intake accordingly.

When you're training consistently and seeing good progress without paying much attention on the nutrition side, you can safely assume you're getting it right either through good intuition or because you've practiced the appropriate habits for long enough that your appetite is well tuned to your requirements and your body trusts you to listen when it tells you that it needs more. When you're not seeing progress, you need to go back and plan in advance to meet appropriate targets, and then assess the situation.

Best results will always come when training is both consistent and strategic, and fueling is closer to optimal rather than further into deficit. At the very least, you must be working to exceed a minimum adequate requirement. A couple of times with more advanced athletes I have only set a minimum requirement with an official "no maximum limit", and the results were nothing short of amazing.

Bottom line: best long term results will come from consistent participation with a strategic and productive approach to training, and anticipation of increased fueling requirements as performance improves.

A little update:  if you're looking to get started with an introductory training program & fueling guidelines, see the weight loss tab on my blog right here.
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Ending the unhealthy obsession with calorie deficit.

Always take a selfie.
I'll try to make this as clear as I can. Calories In / Calories Out is definitely a thing, but people need to STOP worshiping this idea about "calorific deficit", because it's stupid.

Now, don't get me wrong... and in fact I'll address this pre-emptively before the inevitable strawman attacks start: you cannot lose fat in a calorific surplus. If you take in more calories than you can put to use, that energy gets stored as body fat. Calories from any source as well, mind you.

However... the EMPHASIS on being in calorific deficit is all wrong. Note how I used to capital letters to emphasise the word emphasis just now. I'm not saying "take people out of deficit". I feel like I can't just say what I'm saying any more, I have to specify what I'm not saying as well, every paragraph or so. I'm going to go ahead and predict that a few people will still miss that and make stupid comments all the same once I share this to facebook.

Why not focus on being in deficit though?

As a profession coach and trainer and a specialist in Flexible Dieting with an interest in eating disorder awareness, recovery and avoidance, I've had active and athletic people come to me on... one particular example that I have in mind is a female athlete who came to me a few years back on 1300 calories a day and quite unhappy. She is now well aware that she REQUIRES a 3000 calorie a day minimum in order to see best results and performance at training, and to remain injury free.

That's something of an extreme example with very high fueling requirements, but it is quite common for me to reverse diet a female athlete from as low as 1100 or even 900 calories per day all the way up to 23, 2400, maybe 2600 calories per day subject to the amount they actually require to facilitate good results at their level of prowess at training.

Predicting an amount that is in deficit is easy. Literally, it's any amount that's less than would support current mass (including fat mass) and activity levels. All of these programs and diets where you just have an arbitrary amount like 1200 calories to restrict to, that's just about being in deficit and it's stupid. Some "macro plan" that doesn't end on a round number? Also stupid. Those "these are the only foods you're allowed to eat" type plans? They're not even smart enough to understand that how you'd lose weight on that plan is because you would be in deficit.

Now, on a personal level, "I just eat these foods and avoid those foods" is fine if people are happy with the food choices they're making and the results  they're seeing. I don't mean to insult people for not having a working knowledge of nutrition... other than the ones who are trying to enforce those choices onto others, and especially if they're charging money for it.

I have digressed. Where was I?

Picking an amount that is in deficit is easy, but it's not what is good.

As a coach who is giving sports nutrition advice, you need to be focused on how much people require, AKA how much they can utilise. That is, how much they can put to good use to fuel performance, to recover, and to adapt to training with the creation of lean mass. FKN IDIOTS WHO ARE BOUND TO SHOW UP TO TRY ARGUE WITH ME PLEASE NOTE: "how much they can put to use" does not translate to "a calorific surplus that would preclude fat loss", no matter what way you try to twist it.

Going back to those examples of mine from eariler: As a coach, you're never going to find out that your athlete requires 2400 or 2800 or 3000+ calories per day while you're thinking "results come from being in deficit, if you were in deficit you'd be seeing results". You won't have the BRAINS OR THE BALLS to raise their targets that high, so long as you're still married to and they're still enslaved by this brain dead notion of being focused on "calorific deficit". Rather, you're likely to slash intake targets even lower, clutch at straws about "not eating clean", or accuse the client of lying about their intake. These are the sort of things I keep getting told about, anyway.

Understand this: Not seeing fat loss does not necessarily automatically infer that you are "not in deficit" or that eating more would mean "going into surplus". While in deficit, tapping into fat stores is only one of many adaptations the human body might make and not necessarily it's preferred option. The further you go into deficit of an adequate amount, the less energy and resources the body will make available for other functions in order to preserve those fat stores.

Bottom line? If you're an athlete (and by this I mean anyone training with an interest in improving performance and body composition) you need to be fueled in a manner to facilitate performance and maintain condition. You can't build or maintain lean mass without making those resources available.
If you're a coach... if you're a trainer, train people and fuel them for results. We're supposed to be qualified professionals, stop trying to starve people thin with the same sort of logic I'd be dismayed to read on some kind of pro-ana blog.

You're not doing IIFYM if all you're doing is calculating a deficit, much less if you're just slashing further and further below some arbitrary amount.
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I don't do meal plans. I do Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines.

Pretty average photo from training
yesterday. I thought my shoulders were
looking good though.
I just don't, and I won't no matter how much someone asks or how much they offer to pay me. I just don't feel comfortable telling other people what to eat. The idea stresses me the hell out, to be honest.

If you really do want a meal plan via me, I will crunch the numbers as I always do via my Flexible Fueling system and then forward those guidelines to a real dietitian to talk to you about your food choices. I haven't had one for a while, but I do still from time to time get told "no I want you to do it"... well, that aint gonna happen.

Now if you were considering looking for a meal plan online, or if you were looking to hire a trainer who'll tell you what you are allowed to eat and what you are not allowed to eat, here's what I think you should keep in mind.

What makes for a good meal plan?

Purely from a nutritional point of view, a meal plan is good if it provides everything that you need and no excess. So enough total energy, enough protein, fiber and a good spread of micronutrients suitable to maintain good health, an appropriate weight range, and good performance and results at training.

That's what you need in a meal plan purely on nutritional grounds.

A lot of the time you might see meal plans on offer from trainers or even less qualified "wellness guru" types, and they're kind of a one size fits all proposition with a bunch of healthy foods listed, and the inference is that since they're all healthy foods it's a good plan and you'll be getting everything you need. This is often far from the case as just throwing together a list of "healthy foods" in no way ensures meeting an adequate energy intake for performance at sport or adequate protein for adaptation to training.

Often this is the case with "clean eating" type plans for sale or available for free online. There is simply no consideration given to energy and protein requirements, and they may fall dangerously short of a suitable amount for an active person. Anyone can throw together a list of healthy foods... and most of the time that's all you're getting. A list of healthy foods and perhaps another list of other foods that are banned for no legitimate reason is a long way from being a decent sports nutrition plan that will ensure results. It is probably the opposite.

Now assuming you do have a plan to meet your individual requirements in terms of total energy, protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals via healthy & nutritious choices, that's great. However, there is more to a good meal plan than simply being nutritionally appropriate.

A good meal plan is one that not only delivers everything that you require, but even more importantly is one that you can stick to long term. A plan that has designated meal times or meal frequency that does not suit you as an individual, you won't stick to for long. A plan that includes mostly foods that you find unappealing, you won't stick to for long.

If you're anything like me and a lot of other people, if you don't like the foods you probably won't even attempt the plan. Because you know it is unworkable. Assuming you do try, you're likely to put off eating for as long as possible and then end up having something else instead and probably way too much of it. Or you might force yourself to try the scheduled meal and lose your appetite half way though as you're not enjoying it. This would mean either you go underfueled defeating the purpose of having a plan in the first place, or again you end up ravenous at some point later on and over eat something that isn't on the plan.

None of this is conducive to good results or to a good relationship with food.

This is a very simple point that seems to baffle a lot of people who for some reason believe they are in a position to give advice to others.

A plan that is "good" in terms of providing everything that you need is worthless if it is not conducive to enthusiastic adherence. If it is unworkable due to meal schedules or food choices... it might be a good plan for someone else, but it's not a good plan for you. The plan needs to fit the person. It is not a failing on your part if you can't force yourself to work with an unworkable situation.

Now if this plan does indeed provide all of the nutritional resources that you require, the assumption is that we actually know what those requirements are. What amounts of various resources such as total energy, protein, fiber and so on. If the person providing the plan can't tell you what those are, then it's just a stab in the dark and they are full of shit. We don't know your requirements, we don't really how much this plan provides... but it's all good food so obviously it does provide exactly the amount you require and no more or less. 

That's unreasonably optimistic, in my opinion.

Certainly though, a competent professional (such as myself) can determine those requirements with reasonable accuracy. So, rather than a plan that is basically an "eat it, it's good for you" proposition that may or may not deliver everything that you need, we can plan to meet all of those nutritional requirements with a variety of our preferred choices of foods that will be suitable to long term adherence. More to the point, we can also create a new plan whenever we feel like it, based on whatever foods we feel like eating that day.

Obviously you can't just abuse the concept and still expect to end up meeting all of your targets, but with a little planning and preparedness you most certainly can produce great and sustainable results with whatever choices of foods best suit you.

This is what Flexible Dieting and IIFYM is all about. In my Flexible Fueling system, I give you the targets and simple guidelines to assist you to build your own plan that you'll be enthusiastic and optimistic about sticking to.

And it's pretty easy.

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Why do people get fat? Because it's easy.

I have had a few ideas for some articles recently, but I've felt kind of disillusioned at the moment like trying to talk sense just gets lost in all the noise and idiocy that is rampant everywhere else.

I had this idea though for a "why people get fat" article.

Everyone's looking for like a "root cause" like it's a mystery. We argue about whether the issue is with total calories or with choices of foods irrespective of calories... and then there's some bizarre ideas going around about "over eating doesn't make people fat, being fat causes over eating" and so forth. Crazy.

There are borderline orthorexic theories as if certain foods are impossible to not over eat, crap about sugar being "more addictive than cocaine", and nonsense about certain foods instantly being stored as fat just because they're "bad" for some reason due to being processed, or transported long distances, or including GMOs or whatever.

All nonsense and taken to extremes, potentially harmful as people start to get neurotic about which choices of foods are "ok" and which ones aren't. Don't get me wrong though, it's a good thing that people are considering the underlying, root causes and trying to treat the cause rather than just the symptom.

So then. Why do people get fat? 

BECAUSE IT'S EASY.

It's easy to get fat. Most of us have no need to perform any strenuous activity or even move around much in our daily lives. Therefore a "normal" amount of food is enough to make you gain weight. It's easy to consume a way above normal amount too if you're not a little bit mindful especially in regard to snacking and choice of beverages.

It's no mystery. We get fat because it is easy and truthfully, unless you take a few steps to make up for an otherwise inactive modern lifestyle, it's not just easy... it is the most likely outcome.

The issue IS with total calorific intake. You can either resolve this by limiting your choices of foods to ones with a really good satiety to energy content ratio (meaning they fill you up without a lot of calories),  or by simply planning to meet your requirements with appropriate (and therefore non excessive) amounts of whatever foods you fancy.

You'll be well aware by now that my preferred course of action is the latter. Since appropriate calorie intake is the key, you might as well ensure success by determining and planning to meet your requirements. I see the other option as something of a shot in the dark, and if you don't see the expected results you're really left guessing as to what adjustments you need to make. Are you making all the most wise choices of foods, but still eating too much of them? Or are you making all the most sensible choices of foods, but with a total intake that is insufficient, forcing your body to compensate and conserve energy? It's certainly not down to any one off individual choice of a more indulgent meal, although this is what people tend to assume, leading to more of that neurotic fear of "unclean" foods that we touched on earlier.

So then. What to do?

It's pretty simple. Sort of.

An excessive intake of energy above the amount you require will result in excessive weight via increased body fat. Therefore, simply consume an appropriate amount rather than an excessive amount.

There's a problem though. This will work, but it's not terribly efficient. In most cases people have gained weight gradually, almost without noticing. When trying to lose weight, we want to see consistent results, or we lose interest.

Bigger problem. You have psychological needs as well as just energy and micronutrient requirements. On a total intake suitable only for an inactive lifestyle, there's just not enough room in the plan for much indulgence or enjoyment. We can address this somewhat by increasing activity levels, but simply by "moving more" we're still left with a fairly inefficient strategy that it isn't much fun to stick to.

So then. What to actually do?

The same thing I always say. We need to do more than just "move more", and apply some strenuous effort in the context of a more strategic training program. A program that is designed to promote the increase and maintenance of lean mass... specifically increased bone density and muscle tissue, at the expense of body fat stores.

Following a program such as this, your energy requirements are increased significantly, and continue to increase as you make progress and improve performance at training. Within these requirements there is plenty of room to base your nutrition plan on the choices of foods you enjoy, secure in the knowledge that all of the resources those foods provide will be utilised to good effect in building your healthy, athletic goal body condition at goal weight.

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Just for the record though, on paleo and clean eating and so forth

Different things will work for different people. On a psychological level. Something like a paleo diet for example, if it results in a total calorie intake more suited to maintain your goal body condition and fuel your activity level, you'll be successful. Of course, that's not guaranteed... and if your progress does stall you're going to have to figure out whether you're still at an excessive intake or whether you are in fact at an insufficient intake to allow continued progress.

The issue with these diets though, is that they're rarely promoted in terms of "here's a healthy diet based on sensible choices that should result in a suitable intake without the need to track calories". They're promoted in terms of fear mongering about the foods that are excluded from the diet, and there's also an implication of moral or intellectual superiority over those who still indulge in more... well, more indulgent choices that aren't considered "clean" or whatever.

So. Some people are good at following a strict diet and will do just fine with this approach. But they are not "better" than other people who require a more flexible approach. Results come simply from appropriate intake relative to the type and amount of activity you participate in, not from some karmic system where you're rewarded with a "good body" for being a good person who eats good food, while all the shit people eating shit food get nothing. Right?

It should be enough to say "I like doing it this way, and it works for me", without needing to feel that it is also the ONLY way to do things, or the moral judgement as if anyone who does it another way is cheating the system somehow and doesn't really deserve whatever success they've managed to claw out for themselves.

The other issue here is that while it is possible and perhaps you could argue it is quite likely to achieve a suitable total intake on these more strict diets without tracking calories, it is far from a guaranteed outcome. This can be very problematic. As an example, an insufficient total intake will prevent further progress just as an excessive total intake will. A person who has stopped seeing results from training due to an insufficient total intake, but is lead to believe that their lack of progress is due to failing to adhere to the strict requirements of their dieting protocol 100% of the time, because they're "not a good enough person with willpower and dedication" is... well... you guys know I do a lot of work with eating disorder recovery, right? This is where a lot of the trouble starts.

So the issue is with the idea that nothing else will work, and 100% adherence is required. The issue is with the idea that achieving a suitable energy balance is not important, and the (entirely imaginary) moral quality of your food choices is. The issue is that some people have more trouble than others in sticking to a strict plan, and some people have issues with food and simply cannot eat the way they are told to. Those people then are effectively... no, they're quite literally told that there is no hope for them and they don't deserve good health or happiness.

BTW the 100% adherence idea is "orthorexia" and pushing it upon other, vulnerable people who just want to be healthy and happy and confident in their appearance makes you a shit human being. The people I described with limited food choices may or may not be effected by "Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder". Consider this before your next ignorant "why can't they just grow up and eat clean real food" rant on facebook, dickheads.

I can not emphasise this point enough. The very simple truth is that your weight is determined by total calorie intake. For those who deny this, how do you explain why there are so many successful IIFYMers and Flexible Dieters out there? Certainly many people have also failed to achieve or maintain results via calorie counting, but this is due to either having inappropriate targets or simply by losing motivation. Even with an Avoidant / Restrictive Intake problem, you can certainly try to make the best choices that are acceptable to you, and include those in a plan to meet your total energy requirements.

Everyone has the same potential to succeed providing they follow the approach that is best suited to them as an individual. If a more strict approach choosing unprocessed, clean, paleo, whole foods works for you then by all means go for it. But it doesn't make you better than anyone else.

Not being a cunt, and being happy to see other people succeed even if they do so with a different approach to your own is what will make you a better person.
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When you're not getting results through restrictive means

according to conventional wisdom
  • you’re still eating too much
  • you’re not eating clean enough
  • you’re not burning enough calories at exercise
then if you’ve seen too much fitspo you can start to believe a lack of results means something about who you are as a person. Because if you’re dedicated and disciplined you earn results. Therefore if you’re not getting results, it means you’re the opposite of all those things.
BULLSHIT.
In the pursuit of weight and body composition goals I have come to believe that UNDEREATING is actual far more detritmental to your progress than overeating. Obviously you need to be in a calorific deficit, less than would be required to maintain your current weight. But if you “over eat” and exceed your target calories for weight loss… well as long as you’re still below maintenance levels you havent’ really over eaten. Even if you do exceed maintenance levels TODAY but generally you hit an appropriate intake suitable to your goal weight, your progress won’t be effected.
Now if you habitually under eat, on the other hand… your body needs to compensate. It starts to think “well if I run out of fat stores, I’m fucked” and the survival mechanism prioritises the conservation of fat stores over everything else. This is why you often find that you’ve lost weight after what you thought was a “bad” week indulging yourself on holidays or whatever, when you didn’t lose any while dieting and training obsessively.
I’ve had a tremendous amount of success with people who are already very active and performing at training to quite a high level, but aren’t seeing the changes in body composition that they are looking for despite following all the conventional “eat less, cut carbs, eat clean” advice.
Simply put… if your goal is a lean, athletic body type, you need to fuel it properly. Especially with some of the taller, younger, more active women I coach… the prospect of eating “too much” to an extent that their progress would go backwards is so unlikely as to be ridiculous. Often I don’t even set a “maximum” calorie limit.
The issue is with failing to hit a MINIMUM calorie target suitable to fuel their active lifestyle and build the strong, healthy, lean and athletic body that they desire.
The greater issue is with the messages everywhere, that restricting calorie intake or restricting choices of foods is a sign of strong character and makes you a good and valuable person, and that indulging means the opposite. 
That’s bullshit.
It is ok to eat.
More than “ok”, it is entirely necessary. 
You already know this. The problem is we are bombarded with messages to the contrary. This creates cognitive dissonance especially where (as above) we have been conditioned to equate eating habits with being a good or a bad person.
Well… fuck that. 

I'm kicking off my next 12 Week Flexible Dieting For Recovery Challenge next week. You should totally get in on it.
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